A month can fly by with barely a change in routine. Most of my waking life is spent staring at a computer screen, tap tapping away on my keyboard. Inevitably when I surface for air, rubbing my eyes and glancing at the time, I can be found loudly and indignantly exclaiming “Oh. My. God. It’s Easter! How did that happen?”, followed in the very next breath by “Can you believe it’s Christmas?!”. But leaving the rigmarole of daily life, I’m reminded that quite a lot can happen in a month.
During the month of October, the Co-pilot and I traversed the equator across into the northern hemisphere for our belated honeymoon. Yes, that’s right, honeymoon. If you have a vague sense of déjà vu, you’re not going mad, I did post about our Thai honeymoon back in August, but er.. that was our teaser honeymoon – let’s call it Honeymoon Mark 1 and more of a necessary escape to regain our wits post wedding than a nourishing holiday. October was Honeymoon Mark 2, our Europe Honeymoon, the holiday I’d been looking forward to all year. Our itinerary spanned London – Paris – Dordogne – Pyrenees – San Sebastian – Barcelona – Singapore, but we spent the vast majority of the time in France and Spain eating copious amounts of amazing food and dutifully ignoring our ever expanding waistbands. There will be posts coming soon about our best finds including the Michelin stars that we collected along our travels and excitingly (for me at least), tales of intrepid foraging.
But more of that later. The first weekend I returned from Europe, ludicrously jetlagged and before I had a chance to see my family, I was on a plane to Adelaide for the 3rd instalment of the Eat Drink Blog, the annual national Australian Foodblogger Conference. Last year I, along with 2 others: Jen and Simon, was one of the organisers of East Drink Blog 2, Sydney’s turn to host the conference. As I’d mentioned in this post from last year, I’m not a relaxed organiser and far from sitting back and enjoying the day’s proceedings, behind my seemingly calm mask listening to the conference panels and keynote speakers, I was going through my mental checklist ensuring the next speaker was present and prepared, ensuring everything was in place. I didn’t do a dedicated post on last year’s conference because quite simply, I couldn’t tell you what happened. I could tell you what our run sheet for the day looked like, but other than that I truly zoned out and I’m just glad it happened and from the feedback from attending bloggers, it seemed to go well. Bonus! Amongst some of the complementary bloggers at last year’s conference were Christina from The Hungry Australian and Amanda from Lambs’ Ears and Honey. Buoyed from the excitement from the day, they both independently enthused and mused about how good it would be to have the conference in Adelaide and both were so genuine, it left a lasting impression on me (perhaps to their detriment). Many months later, I’m not sure either of them quite expected me to contact them and ask them if they’d like to officially take the reins and move the conference to Adelaide. A few emails and conference calls later, the handover was complete and the beginnings of the EDB3 Organising Committee was born, co-chaired by Christina and Amanda. Given I absorbed nothing from the Sydney conference, I certainly wasn’t going to miss out on the Adelaide conference! Jetlagged or not, I was going to Adelaide.
Besides, I’ve never been to Adelaide before – come to think of it, I haven’t ventured past the Australian Eastern Seaboard.. Hmm.. It really was high time I visited and maybe saw a bit more of this country!
The conference was organised over an entire content-packed weekend. There were 80 lucky delegates in attendance (the event was oversubscribed), with representation from almost all the states and territories with the exception of the Northern Territory and Tasmania – a phenomenal feat! The Saturday kicked off with a tour of the Adelaide Central Markets where we perused the stalls and met with some of the producers that would be contributing to a special pop up lunch for us the next day.
Fresh from our foraging adventures in Europe, I was excited to see some familiar French wild mushrooms at the Mushroom Man’s Mushroom Shop – morels, chanterelles and hedgehog mushrooms! They also had black garlic – white garlic that has been aged under specific conditions to produce a wonderful, savoury, umami-packed aroma – they smelt like they had been marinated in an amazing soya sauce bath.
Following on from the tour, we split up into different groups. Some attended the writing workshop with the conference keynote speaker, Dianne Jacob. Others went to the Barossa Valley and had wine and food pairing tastings. I’d opted for the McLaren Vale tour and hopped on the bus for the 40 minute odd trip to d’Arenberg Winery. It was certainly a picturesque setting fringed with grand old iron bark trees, docile curious sheep tending to the dry grass and just beyond them, the luscious green vineyards beckoned. Not a bad setting for a drop of wine or two.
We were welcomed by the winery owner, d’Arry Osborn who despite his robust frame was a fairly softly spoken man, quietly recounting the history of the family winery. Formalities aside we were instructed in the art of wine tasting and encouraged to make notes of the characteristics of each before making a custom blend of the three to make our own wine.
With the guidance of senior winemaker Jack, we were given three shiraz wines to taste – each of a different age, from different soil environments and oak barrel aging conditions – factors that contributed to their remarkably different flavour profiles. The first (a 2010 Blewitt Springs shiraz) was young, sweet and thin with a short palate; the second (a 2010 Beautiful View shiraz) was more acidic and robust with tannins; the third (a 2010 McLaren Flat shiraz) had stronger rounded berry flavours but tasted inexplicably like salami or pork terrine. We all generally agreed the wines weren’t our first choice for drinking, but blending them together made a magical transformation with each of the previously assertive flavour profiles muted into the background in the blends.
With measuring cylinders and pipettes, we made a few blends of the three before settling on our final combination to bottle and take home as a souvenir. But not before siphoning off a cheeky glass for the blending competition. As oxygen is the enemy of wine preservation, small chunk of dry ice were placed into the jug to suck away marauding oxygen molecules.
With my wine tasting partner, the always vibrant Peter G from Souvlaki for The Soul, naturally then our partnership was the P & T Estate and our masterpiece blend “Foraging for The Soul” (a blend of our two blog names of course).
Blending wine is hard and thirsty work, but luckily some tasty canapes and sparkling wine awaited us outside. The oysters were particularly memorable, freshly shucked Claire de Lune oysters topped with Japanese wakame seaweed salad, wasabi flying fish roe (tobiko) and dressed with a squeeze of lime. Delicious, simple and definitely something I intend to recreate this summer. So tasty, I headed back for seconds for a better taste.
In the end, we didn’t win but given we weren’t expecting anything we were pretty chuffed with the runner up accolade. “Will cellar well for up to 5 years”, said Jack in his deliberation, “Will be a corker of a wine then – which is why they called it ‘Foraging for the Soul’ I’d imagine”. Yes, sure, that was the deliberate thinking behind the name…
A short refresher break and it was off to dinner. From my photos, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we were just served copious amounts of behemothly large cuts of meat. We weren’t, I recall salads, desserts and er.. stuff, I just got a little excited by the ribs and steaks and evidently failed to take photos of much else.
Bright and early the next day we all met again at the Adelaide markets for the full day conference. Not that I needed more food, but with foodbloggers around, more food there was. Between breakfast, morning tea, a pop up lunch and afternoon tea we heard from speakers about writing, community building, food styling, food photography, blog design, SEO, legal considerations, ethics, local and seasonal sustainability and opportunities from blogging.
The conference was very informative, engaging, entertaining (particularly Simon Bryant’s panel session!) and very valuable. Above all though, for me the conference a much needed inspiration boost, a much needed virtual kick up the backside reminder that there are so many things that I could do to improve my blog, and so many opportunities I could make if I actually invested the time and effort into it. The increasing levels of energy and positivity throughout the day from the other bloggers was palpable. I think the organising committee should be so very proud for putting on such an excellent conference, and for undoubtedly sending off 80 bloggers inspired each in their own way to be better bloggers. In fact, the conference was so inspiring, we may have witnessed the birth of a blogger on the day. I noticed one of the Breville baristas was absolutely engrossed in the conference content, listening intently in on the sessions, and later learned that he had always wanted to start a coffee blog and the conference had inspired him to turn those thoughts into action.
That’s a big thank you to the organising committee consisting of Amanda, Christina, Celeste, Kirsty, Erin, Alex and Natasha for the excellent conference, and to all the generous sponsors who donated to make it possible and entirely free to all the attendees. This year’s team delivered a very slick, very well organised and very professional event. The bar and expectations for next year have truly been raised.
And what did I think of Adelaide? It was very welcoming and friendly, cozy and sleepy – like a comfortable warm hug – one I could get used to and one I can’t believe I took this long to meet.